Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Beginners Improv Exercises - Part 1.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: 

Hoopla's Beginners Improv Courses start every month in London: Beginners Improv Courses.

If you've done a Beginners Course our best next step is our Performance Improv Course: Performance Improv Course

This is part 1 of our write up of Beginners Improv Exercises from our recent courses. For part 2 please click here. 

I'm teaching lots of Beginners Improv Courses with Edgar at the moment and really enjoying them. A couple of the groups asked for a write up of some of our games so I thought I'd share this out to the wider improv scene. 

I'm going to write them up week by week as we go through the course, so they are roughly in the order that we do them.

Each workshop tends to feature a chat from me to set the environment, some warm ups, some exercises on certain topics, and then some fun show games or scenes to put it all into practice.

Here's the first batch, more coming on this blog soon:

Setting the Environment (things we say at start of class)

We have an atmosphere of safety, trust and support.
You are not by yourself, we're playing together as a team and supporting each other.
You are allowed to make mistakes, they often lead to the best bit in improv.
You can say the first thing that comes to you, you don't have to edit yourself, as long as you are coming from a place of fun, love and respect for your fellow improviser.
You don't have to be clever or funny or make up jokes, the humour comes naturally from the situation.
Yes And.

Warm Ups

1 Minute Life Stories: In pairs. One person says their life story in one minute. The other person listens and doesn't interupt. At the end of the minute the listener repeats back as much as they remember. Used to get to know each other and also show active listening.

Yipee: Everyone runs around the room, they run up to each other and jump up in the air simultaneously and shout "YIPEE!". Next step, they either both jump, or both not jump. Next step, if they both jump they stick together and form a unit until eventually everyone is in one big group shouting YIPEE and jumping in the air simultaneously. Learnt from Kevin Tomlinson. Used to get everyone moving and having fun.

Wild West: Everyone stood in a circle. At first they pass around "YE-HAH" by shouting YE-HAH in a Western Accent and swining their arm to the person next to them. Then if someone puts themselves into a shape of a barn and shouts "HIGH-BARN" the ye-hahs bounce back in the other direction. Shouting "BANDITS" means everyone runs and swaps places in the circle while being bandits. There are loads of other rules but ideally the teacher makes them up, and the students make up new rules over the course. Used to get everyone playing, breaking the ice, and to get everyone paying attention to the present moment.

Eastenders: Similar to Wild West above, but with Eastenders themed shout outs. With this sort of games I think it's best when the teacher and group make them up, so I won't write out all the rules here as it will take ages there are so many. If you do want our rules please buy me a pint at The Miller and I'll tell you!

Volcano: Everyone walking around the room. The director shouts out something and counts to 5 and everyone has to physically form that thing with each other before the director gets to 5. For instance "Volcano, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Microwave over, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!". Used to get everyone moving around and having fun and also accepting and building on each other's ideas. Learnt from Marc Rowland at Montreal Improv.

Meet & Greet Walkabout: Everyone walks around meeting and greeting each other in different ways. For instance best friends, super heroes, suspicious neighbours, old school buddies, ex boyfriends, parents. Breaks the ice and gets people used to trying out different characters without thinking about it too much. 

Danish Clapping: Fun clapping game I learnt from Chris Mead. I can't explain it with words so stop me when you see me and I'll show you it. I might make a video of it too if I get around to it. 

Creatures of the Deep: I invented this one! It's my prodest achievement. Everyone stood in the circle. The director does an impression of a creature of the deep to the person next to him. They copy what they see to the person next to them. Everyone copies what they just saw, not the original, so they gradually change like chinese whispers. The director sends out loads of creatures (squid, octopus, shark, star fish and more) into the circle and they keep going around until they change and merge and underwater fun is had. 

Yes And Exercises

Machine: Good for physical Yes Anding. Half the class on stage stoood along the back wall. The director gets suggestions for machines (tractor, typewriter, combine harvester etc) and the improvisers make those machines with their bodies as one team, without talking about it. Gets improvisers used to looking at other people's offers and adding to them (yes and) in a collaborative way. Learnt from Charna Halpern with IO and John Cremer at The Maydays.

Story Swap: Good for verbal Yes And. One person is telling a story. When the director claps their hands and shouts swap the other person takes over telling the story exactly where they left off, and then they continue swapping throughout the story. Trains improvisers to listen, yes and, and not plan too far ahead. 

Story Conductor: Team of five improviser stood in an arc, and one improviser in front of them (Story Conductor). Whoever the Story Conductor points to starts telling the story and when they point to someone else the other person takes over. Trains improvisers to listen, yes and, and play as a team. This seems to get played by everyone but I think was invented by IO, I could be wrong about that though. 

Yeah Yeah Yeah: One person starts telling a story. The other says "Yeah yeah yeah" while nodding enthusiastically with their whole body and takes over telling the story, and then they keep swapping over as it goes, saying "yeah yeah yeah" each time. There's also a fun variation where it starts with one saying "do you remember that time...." and then they are two friends remembering a shared time. I got this from Maria Peters so thank you Maria.

Listening Exercises

Word at a Time Stories: Two improvisers tell a story a word at a time, with a different improviser saying each word. Very moment by moment and forces improvisers to stay present. As a variation improvisers can shout "Again" whenever they want to re-start with a new story, which stops people getting stuck and keeps them in the flow of it. I think this was originally invented by Keith Johnstone but now is widely used everywhere.

Wise Wise Wise: The same as above but with a large group stood in a circle trying to make up wise sayings and proverbs a word at a time. When they think one has got to the end of a saying the group says "wise wise wise" and bows.

Syncronised Clapping: Everyone stood in a circle. Two people next to each other turn and face and clap at the same time. One turns to the next person, and they also clap at the same time. This continues around the circle. If people clap twice it changes the direction, and people can also clap across the circle to someone. Gets everyone listening and in the present moment. I've seen Edgar make a group play this for 40 minutes before. There is something in it. It's so simple and yet over thinking makes it at first difficult. Ommmm.

Being Obvious Exercises

Piece of Cheese: Everyone in a circle. One person hops out and says "I'm a piece of cheese" and becomes that piece of cheese. One by one other improvisers come out and become obvious things to go with that offer, until one overall united picture is formed. Then it's repeated with different starting objects. For instance "I'm a wheel", "I'm a unicycle frame", "I'm a unicyclist", "I'm the circus they are in".  

Group Mind Exercises

Stop, Shuffle, Walk, Drop: Everyone walking around the room. If the director says stop they stop, drop they touch the floor, walk they walk, and shuffle they shuffle along. Then the director stops saying anything and the group can shout it out when they want. Then there are no shout outs at all and the group just does magically the same thing, adjusting from walk to shuffle as they go by everyone sensing what the group wants. Teaches everyone to be connected to the group and sense what the group needs. I got this one from Sophie Pumphrey so thank you Sophie.

Fun End Games

Late for Work: One person leaves the room. While they are out the audience suggests why they were late for work, how they got here, and what their job is. When the person comes back they are apologising to their boss for being late while trying to guess why they were late, how they got there, and what their job is. They are helped out by four improvisers playing their friendly colleagues who are miming actions behind the boss.  I like this game early in our beginners courses as it gets people on stage in front of an audience having fun, and also gets people physically yes anding each other.

Copy Dance: Split everyone into groups of 5 or so. They have 5 minutes to find a song they all now, practice singing it, and invent and rehearse a dance routine to go with it. At the end of the 5 minutes each group performs their piece, but also another group then gets up and immediately copies what they just saw. We use to teach optimism in performance, the fact that mistakes will happen and you're never ready but you can stay optimistic. As Mick Barnfather (who we learnt this from): No problem!

End Chat

We always try to end with a postive chat, celebrating what people enjoyed and trying to minimise people's inner critics.


This is part 1 of our write up of Beginners Improv Exercises from our recent courses. For part 2 please click here. 

Hoopla's Beginners Improv Courses start every month in London: Beginners Improv Courses.

If you've done a Beginners Course our best next step is our Performance Improv Course: Performance Improv Course.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Things I'm looking forward to about this season.

Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email:

I taught the first beginners improv workshop of the season last night and it was so much fun it reminded me why I'm doing this in the first place. I love teaching beginners, it's so exhilarating watching people do improv for the first time. I love the magic moment when someone says or does something and has no idea where it's come from. We had a lovely group too, it actually felt like a ready made team arriving. 

Hoopla have been on a bit of a break over August, with just a couple of things running, but we're back properly this week. Over the summer I've been focussing on #improvadmin (lots of) and now I'm back properly into improv land.

Here's what I'm looking forward to about this season:


Last night reminded me how much I love running improv workshops so I'm looking forward to all the courses starting this week.

Hoopla Ten Years Party

Hoopla are ten years old this weekend and we're having a big party on Saturday night at The Miller, all welcome. It feels weird writing ten years old, it doesn't feel like that. It feels like yesterday we were in The Bedford in Balham once a week drinking and smoking during workshops. 


It's been a bit of a balancing act squeezing in everyone this season, but we've got a nice variety of shows lined up including Paul Merton coming back in September and also lots of up and coming new groups. 

Performance Squad

We've now got lots of lovely volunteers who are going to be helping out at our shows with things like front of house, hosting and sound & lights. This enables us to put on more shows and improv community events, and also means the show groups are more supported when they come and perform. I'm really looking forward to having a team of people all working together on shows.

More nights at The Miller

Having more volunteers helping out has meant we're able to take on running more shows at The Miller, so next year we're going to be running shows there 4 or 5 times a week instead of 3. This is going to mean more space for up and coming impro groups, and more gigs for everyone basically.

Working with The Nursery and The Maydays

We've always had a lovely relationship with The Nursery and The Maydays, we're like Morecambe & Wise in bed together, and this season its stronger than ever.  

The Nursery have got a great new workshop venue and we're going to be running lots of courses there. I think it's lovely having so many improvisers in one place. 


I've finally got organised and started recording some podcasts. I think I might be the last person left to do one. We're keeping it simple, it's just me and a couple of improvisers each week chatting about and then playing their favourite improv exercises. 

It's designed to help new improvisers or people in improv groups to give them some exercises and show games that they can use, even if their miles away from any improv company they could hopefully listen to some exercises and have a go at playing them. Maybe we'll also send them into space and encourage an inter alien impro scene. 


Slapdash the International Impro Festival is going to be at The Miller this year which is really exciting. Jules, The Nursery and C3Something are programming it and I'm going to be helping to promote it. It's such a great chance to see improv from around the world. 

John Cremer

We've got John Cremer back to teach some more guest workshops.  He's the first person I learnt improv from and I think he creates the most amazing environment. He's going to be running a one day workshops on improv and also a two day workshop on teaching improv, so a good chance to learn about how to set up a supportive workshop environment. 

Improv at Work

I've been working with Max Dickins and others on bringing improv into the workplace. Max does an amazing job at working with companies and making improv relevant to their work, and I feel like we've now got something really fun and helpful. 


I really love how Hoopla is becoming such a strong team. We've got some lovely teachers and we're now chatting together more than ever, swapping exercises and still learning loads. Also the show groups and the front of house volunteers and everyone else all working together to keep trying out new shows and growing impro.


Most of all thank you to my lovely wife George. She's basically Hoopla's external consultant and I bounce so many ideas of her and she's always there to listen and hug.

Blub blub hug hug hug love love lovey!

Happy improvising everyone! It's crazy isn't it? But we love it!


Blog by Steve Roe, co-founder of Hoopla Improv, courses, shows and improv club in London, UK. Twitter: @HooplaImpro. Facebook: HooplaImpro. Website: Email: